My wife recently had some work meetings in Louisville, Kentucky and she had a great idea… “Why don't you fly here on Thursday night instead of flying home?” That was an easy decision and we had an opportunity to do some, ahem, “gemba walks” at a few Kentucky bourbon distilleries on Friday and Saturday.
On Friday afternoon, we arrived at the Four Roses Distillery (about an hour drive from downtown Louisville). It's a beautiful place, with very traditional and historically-protected Spanish Mission-style architecture. And they make great bourbon.
When we walked into the welcome center at about 12:45 pm Friday for our 1 pm tour, I checked in and the woman behind the counter looked in her computer and gave me a facial expression like this:
“You're actually booked for tomorrow.”
I realized immediately what must have happened. Back to that in second.
I probably gave a look like this:
Before I could say anything, she added, with a smile:
“You're the fourth or fifth person who has done that today… I'm not supposed to since there's just one spot left today, but I'll get you both in.”
Ah, beneficial violations of standardized work! I'll take it. I'll feel a bit bad about it, but I'll take it. Plus, I wasn't in trouble with my wife, who also enjoys these tours immensely.
So, what happened? Here is the booking engine for the Four Roses tour. Notice how the calendar goes Monday through Sunday going left to right? For American calendars, that's pretty non-standard.
Most booking engine calendars (like that for American airlines and most hotel chains that I use) run Sunday through Saturday, as shown below:
When four or five people a day (at least) are making that mistake, it screams “system problem.”
I take some responsibility for not being more careful, especially since I've made this mistake before with the airport car service I use in Dallas:
I try to “be more careful” but we're all human… we're prone to human error. I've given feedback to the car service and they realize the calendar can confuse people… but they haven't changed or updated it.
When a hospital or surgical center constantly has people showing up at the wrong address or the wrong time… do they say, “That happens all the time” or do they fix the process?
Going back ten years ago, a hospital I worked with had a street address of “Motor Street” in Dallas. The street had actually been changed to “Medical District Drive” and that's what the freeway sign said. But, the GPS units of that era weren't always updated as frequently as our smartphone apps are today.
The communication to patients said “Medical District Drive” but when they punched that into their GPS, it said “Address not found.” So, many patients were late to the outpatient center.
When we talked to patients to learn about their experience, they mentioned the address confusion. It had been easy for the hospital staff to blame patients for being late. But, we then changed the communications to say the address was “Medical District Drive, formerly known as Motor Street.”
Sure though, that helped reduce patient lateness. It was a system problem. Fixing the system improves performance more effectively than blaming individuals. Go figure!
We did enjoy our Four Roses tour very much. Here are some photos (click for larger views):
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